Deadlands and Legend of the Five Rings were big games for me. They came at a time just when we were getting a bit tired of the White Wolf stuff, having gnawed at the monster games (Masquerade, Apocalypse, etc.) and devoured Ars Magica. Along comes L5R and suddenly, a sword fight felt so dangerous. I thought it was so cool.
I was going to be in New Jersey for a month before my plane left for Tokyo to teach for the Nova Group for a year. The same core three guys I gamed with when I was a teenager were either still in the neighborhood or just back home for a while sorting things out (same 3 guys I gamed with when I returned). We got together and gamed. The guys wanted to all be in the same clan in order to cut down on the getting-to-know-ya chit chat and getting right to it.
I can recall being shocked at how simple and brilliant the idea was.
They chose the Crab Clan and we were off and running. I think it was a Kuni Witch-Hunter, somethin’ else and the character I remember most – Rob’s closeted tough-guy Hida Bushi. He was striving to be a man’s man, a samurai’s samurai in order to cover up the fact that he was gay.
They were in the Shadowlands and every night, their guide/scout would give them options on where to run if things got really bad in the night and he died. “If you go north, you will have to deal with the hills and they will turn into mountains fast; this time of year they might yield snow. If you go east, you will have to race whatever is chasing you back to the Wall. West is suicide, deeper into the shadow but hell, they might not expect it. South are the cliffs and from there you could light a fire and hope the Mantis ships see your distress beacon before the Oni reach you. Good night.”
An oni tore him apart a few days later. I forget which one…the one that is human-shaped but with no eyes and a big mouth and one big sword in each hand. As it laid into the party, it looked at Rob’s Hida Bushi. I recalled a line from the book that said the oni know everything on the players’ character sheets. An oni knows your deepest secrets.
As the bushi attacked the oni sneered. “Man-lover!”
The other two players had the grace to have their characters look shocked and it was neat seeing their characters pretend it was never said in the heat of combat. What happens in the Shadowlands, stays in the Shadowlands, I reckon.
The rest is all a blur. They made it out of the Shadowlands and were sent to the Crane lands and they learned that court is every bit as dangerous, if not moreso. We played four games all in all, came to a satisfying conclusion and called it a day when I went abroad.
That’s the first piece of L5R-related reading that’s ever got me interested in the game! How much of that was your group, and how much awesome was packed into the system?
I think there were things we did that made it awesome for us and there was some help from L5R.
Having us all be one clan was fantastic. I absolutely loved that and would do it that way again but if I were to do it again, I’d just play Wick’s new Samurai game.
L5R contributed deadly combat and the inspiring bit about the oni knowing what is on a PC’s character sheet, knowing their weaknesses. Good shit.
But L5R, like Deadlands, were both games that showed me a bunch of things at the time but when I look back, there are glaring problems.